What I Learned on My Winter Vacation
Putting the brandy in last, after the wine has mulled for an hour or so, helps cut down on the acidity. At least if you’re using cheap brandy, I suppose.
Twitter is best experienced following and being followed by small numbers of people. In early December, my brain broke from the twin impossibilities of making consistent dissertation progress during a pandemic and trying to find academic work during a pandemic. I decided to turn off all my social media accounts for the month to find some psychic space. But after a week or so, I realized the problem with that approach is that not only is Twitter my job (where I promote my work, discover the work of others, and generally network), it’s also my primary social space—particularly given that we don’t have bars and parties anymore. I decided to make an alt account (it’s not that spicy, folks) and follow just my friends. It’s been really lovely, being locked down with a smaller network. I recommend that you give it a shot.
We have yet to figure out the etiquette of wearing masks out in nature. Over the past six months, I’ve taken up hiking in a big way. Really, I’ve taken up physical activity in general, because at some point in the summer I discovered an affinity for picking heavy things up and putting them down again. But my spouse and I have now hiked basically all of the major trails available in a 1.5-hour drive from our house, and have found that no one quite knows whether or not you’re supposed to wear a mask while hiking, whether you put your mask up when you pass people, or whether the fact that we’re all outside and many feet apart works well enough. Suffice it to say that as always it seems, the social aspect of the pandemic is the problem.
It’s nice to wear pants with a belt even if you’re working from home (or indeed as I spent most of December, not working at all). I don’t know, I just start to feel schlubby rather than relaxed if I spend all my time in sweatpants—although the fact that it’s impossible to find jeans without at least some stretch these days means that perhaps that’s what I’ve been doing all along?
L-shaped sectionals are superior to other couches. For a long time we had a relatively small and cheap IKEA couch, which claimed to seat two but in practice managed one and a half. We decided finally to upgrade to a slightly larger and slightly more expensive IKEA couch, the kind that pulls out into a day bed that basically everyone else has (the Freiheten, or something like that?), and the results have been transformative. Our cat also deigns to sit on the couch with us now, which trust me, is huge for her.
To return briefly to the subject of Twitter (always on my mind): it is of paramount importance if one is to remain psychically whole as a grad student to cultivate rich and sustaining social relationships with non-academics. Twitter, by its nature, encourages its users to blend seamlessly professional and personal identities. This means that if you spend a lot of time on academic Twitter, as I have over my seven years on the site, then you start to eat, sleep, and shit academia. Given that academia already wants its workers to view it as a total way of living (it makes the wage suppression easier!), then you can sort of see the feedback loop at work here. I will leave the question of whether academics should be using Twitter at all for other blog posts (my tentative answer is “no,” but with a lot of caveats, and I’m honestly just not prepared to do the thinking through the full scope of that question right now), but suffice it to say that it’s nice to be around people who can both tell you when your industry is fucking you up and also provide models for other ways of living.
All vacations should be at least two weeks. In that first week of December, it became clear to me and my loved ones that I was burning out, fast. I took what felt like to me the fairly dramatic step of writing my dissertation advisor to tell him that I was taking the rest of the month off, barring tying up some loose ends on the job market. This was non-controversial, of course, because my advisor is a normal person. But this past month has been the first time since I began my graduate degree four-and-a-half years ago that I really took sustained time away from it all. No catching up on articles, no frenzied jotting down notes in the middle of the night, no mapping out CFPs to submit to or things to revise. Head empty, just vibes, that sort of thing. I’m not saying it was magic: I’m still pretty burnt out! But I discovered precisely how much I needed that hard reset, both for the quality of my work (which I feel has suffered as of late, although everyone’s does on the job market so I gotta stop beating myself up about it) and for the broader project of imagining what I want my life to look like once I get through this degree. Empty time is important; I need to find myself more of it.
If your cat develops a spat of diarrhea out of nowhere, probiotics really help. However, the internet will tell you that one way to get your cat to eat her probiotic paste is by smearing it on her fur and letting her lick it off. This will sort of work, but your cat will smell weird and hate you for it. Just put it in her food. Trust me, she’ll be fine.
If you begin The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King1 at 8:25:24 PM on New Year’s Eve, the ring of power will melt into the fires of Mount Doom at precisely midnight. It’s a fun party trick for when we get to have parties again.
A friend noted after I published this blog post that I should specify the extended edition (the only valid edition tbh). ↩︎